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Niger - Libya

Niger believes arms haul comes from Libya

AFP/THOMAS COEX

Niger’s military is hunting for two vehicles involved in a clash with security forces last Sunday after a third, which was captured, was found to contain 640 kgs of explosives, 435 detonators, and 90,000 dollars in cash. Officials believe the arms came from Libya.

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The skirmish between the army and what appears to have been bandits happened north of the town of Arlit and left two people dead, one on each side.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

One four-wheel drive vehicle containing, explosives, arms and money, was recovered. But two other vehicles managed to flee.

And Niger authorities believe the captured arms came from insurrection-hit Libya and were intended for Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

The captured explosive, known as Semtex, is manufactured in the Czech Republic and was being transported in containers with Libyan markings.

For the security services there is no doubt that these explosives were being smuggled out of Libya for Al Qaida, which operates in the Sahara and Sahel region.

Semtex, which is hard to detect, was used to blow up a Pan Am flight over the Socttish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

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And in the past, its main importer has been Libya, which is believed to have bought about 700 tons of it in the 1970s.

Since the uprising in Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania have voiced concern that large stocks of arms have fallen into the hands of the insurgents and are being sold to Al-Qaida.

“Yes there is an increase in circulation of arms at the moment throughout the whole area,"  says Jeremy Keenan, a Sahara specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. "Part of that is people returning from Libya and bringing there arms with them. Part of it is stuff like this, which may have been arms taken and destined for sale. So there’s a mixture of things."

But these countries are exploiting fears of Al-Qaeda for their own ends, he adds, with some receiving support and "a huge amount", particularly from the European Union, to fight a perceived threat from Al-Qaeda.

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